Only the members of the three upper classes

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Unformatted text preview: le (Kshatriya), the peasant/tradesman (Vaishya), and the servant (Shudra). Only the members of the three upper classes participated fully in social, political, and religious life. This scheme underlies the rigid caste system that later became fundamental to Indian society. CRAIMC01_001-039hr.qxp 28 8/12/10 3:57 PM Page 28 Part 1 Human Origins and Early Civilizations to 500 B.C.E. Material Culture The early, seminomadic Aryans lived simply in wood-and-thatch or, later, mud-walled dwellings. They measured wealth in cattle and were accomplished at carpentry and bronze working (iron probably was not known in India before 1000 B.C.E.). They used gold for ornamentation and produced woolen textiles. They also cultivated some crops, especially grains, and were familiar with intoxicating drinks, including soma, used in religious rites, and a kind of mead. References to singing, dancing, and musical instruments suggest that music was a favored pastime in the Vedic period. Gambling, especially dicing, appears to have been popular. One of the few secular pieces among the Vedic hymns is a “Gambler’s Lament,” which closes with a plea to the dice: “Take pity on us. Do not bewitch us with your fierce magic. Let no one be trapped by the brown dice!” The Brahmanic Age left few material remains. Urban culture remained undeveloped, although mud-brick towns appeared as new lands were cleared for cultivation. Established kingdoms with fixed capitals now existed. Trade grew, especially along the Ganges, although there is no evidence of a coinage system. Later texts mention specialized artisans, including goldsmiths, basket makers, weavers, potters, and entertainers. Writing had been reintroduced to India around 700 B.C.E., perhaps from Mesopotamia along with traded goods. Religion Vedic India’s main identifiable contributions to later history were religious. The Vedas reflect the broad development of Vedic Brahmanic religion in the millennium after the coming of the first Aryans. They tell us primarily about the public cult and domestic rituals of the Aryan upper classes. Among the rest of the population, non-Aryan practices and ideas likely continued to Hear the Audio flourish. Apparently non-Aryan elements at are visible occasionally even in the Vedic texts themselves, especially later ones. The Upanishads (after ca. 800 B.C.E.) thus refer to fertility and female deities, ritual pollution and ablutions, and the transmigration of the soul after death. The central Vedic cult—controlled by priests serving a military aristocracy—remained dominant until the middle of the first millennium B.C.E. By that time other, perhaps older, religious forms were evidently asserting themselves among the populace. The increasing ritual formalism of Brahmanic religion provoked challenges both in popular practice and in religious thought that culminated in Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu traditions of piety and practice (see Chapter 2). The earliest Indo-Aryans seem to ha...
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This document was uploaded on 04/03/2014.

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